The UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities - Human Rights Joint Committee Contents

Memorandum submitted by NDCS

  NDCS welcomes the opportunity to submit evidence to the Joint Committee on Human Rights on the progress the Government is making towards ratification of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD). Throughout our submission, we highlight how the needs of deaf children in the UK and globally must be taken into account. Our submission provides a response to the issues requested by the Committee.


  1.1  The National Deaf Children's Society (NDCS) is the national charity dedicated to creating a world without barriers for deaf children and young people. We represent the interests and campaign for the rights of all deaf children and young people from birth until they reach independence. There are over 35,000 deaf children in the UK and three more are born every day. Worldwide, there are around 20 million deaf children, 80% of whom live in developing countries. Deaf Child Worldwide works with partners in the countries where need is greatest throughout the world and is the international development agency of NDCS.

  1.2  NDCS believes that the family is the most important influence on a deaf child's development. NDCS supports the deaf child through the family as well as directly supporting deaf children and young people themselves.

  1.3  By deaf, we mean anyone with a permanent or temporary hearing loss. This could be a mild, moderate, severe or profound hearing loss. The term deaf does not presuppose the use of any one communication method and could refer to children who communicate orally or through sign language. We also include children who have a hearing loss in just one ear.


  2.1  Given the extensive UK involvement in the development and early signature of this Convention, NDCS is disappointed that ratification has been subject to delays. A substantial opportunity for the UK to take a leading role in the establishment of a UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities has now been missed. NDCS welcome the Committee's support for a speedy ratification process and hope the UK will soon join the 41 states that have already ratified. We hope that further delay can now be avoided and that the second opportunity to join the Committee, when the number of states ratifying reaches 60, is not missed.


  3.1  NDCS considers that neither reservations nor interpretative declarations are necessary prerequisites for ratifying the Convention in the UK. We therefore welcome the Committee's investigation of the Government's proposals and hope it can encourage the Government to withdraw as many of these as possible. NDCS is concerned that by making reservations the UK risks devaluing the importance of this Convention both in the UK and around the world. NDCS believes that for the UK to ratify without reservation or limitation would demonstrate to the world the importance it places on disability rights.

  3.2  The majority of countries in the world do not have any disability rights legislation and so for many deaf children, this will be the first time their rights have been enshrined in law. The CRPD presents an historic opportunity for Deaf Child Worldwide and their partners to promote the rights of deaf children around the world, many of whom live in poverty and isolation. Only six states have found it necessary to make any reservations or interpretive declarations. Given the long history of disability rights and discrimination legislation within the UK, NDCS believes the Government should be leading by example in this area and making it clear to deaf children throughout the world that they have the same rights afforded to hearing children.


  4.1  As education is a key issue for NDCS, we limit our comments to the proposed reservation and interpretive declaration to Article 24. Around the world it is estimated that 98% of disabled children are not in school. The Millennium Development Goal on education will not be met unless widespread action is taken by all states to provide quality education for deaf children. In the UK, deaf children are 42% less likely than hearing children to achieve five grade A to C GCSE's.i Deafness is not a learning disability. Our Close the Gap campaign is calling on the Government to commit to closing this attainment gap by 2022.ii

  4.2  NDCS believe the proposed reservation and declaration to Article 24 are inconsistent with other provisions in the CRPD and unnecessary. We understand that the Government's concerns relate to the terms "inclusive" and "in the communities in which they live".

  4.3  On the matter of inclusion, NDCS supports the view that inclusion is a state, not a location, and that a continuum of provision is necessary in order to ensure effective inclusion for all deaf children in terms of achievement, full participation and quality of experience.

  4.4  For deaf children to experience successful inclusion, their educational placements (whether mainstream or special, maintained, non-maintained or independent) should be "Deaf-Friendly" in accordance with NDCS published guidelines and recommended standards.

  4.5  Although provision across the UK has not yet achieved this state of inclusion, NDCS does not accept that Article 24 is in anyway inconsistent with this interpretation of inclusion. Therefore the interpretive declaration is unnecessary.

  4.6  The NDCS position on education is based on the principle of informed choice. NDCS sees this as the goal of ensuring that every family of every deaf child is supported with the information and resources they need to make genuinely informed choices in the best interests of their child. The term informed choice is an important concept and is the process whereby parents of deaf children make decisions about communication options, education placements, amplification and technological equipment as a result of receiving impartial, comprehensive, clear and accurate information. We believe this approach is wholly compatible with the CRPD. In particular, it is supported by Article 3 (a) on General principlesiii and Article 7 (1) on Children with disabilities.iv

  4.7  On the matter of the term "in the communities in which they live", NDCS again disagrees with the necessity for a reservation. We would remind both the Joint Committee and the Government that this Article must be read in light of provisions in Article 7. Article 7 makes it clear that in all actions concerning disabled children, "the best interests of the child shall be a primary consideration".

  4.8  NDCS supports the view that whilst deaf children are entitled to have their needs met in a mainstream school in their local community, for some deaf children full access to and involvement in the educational and social life of a school can be provided only in a specialist placement. Therefore in some cases it may be "in the best interests of the child" to be further away from home. This does not mean that the child should be excluded from the community in which they live and again we would refer to our belief that inclusion is a state rather than a location. We therefore believe the current educational provisions in the UK, including mainstream and special schools, are compatible with the CRPD.

  4.9  NDCS strongly believes more can, and should, be done to improve the quality and choice of educational provisions for deaf children both in the UK and around the world; however we do not think this will be achieved by making reservations to the CRPD.


  5.1  The CRPD provides deaf children with the right to express their views freely, and have their views given due weight in accordance with their age and maturity (Article 7). Ratification of the Optional Protocol would provide deaf children with a mechanism to exercise this right by bringing complaints to a UN Committee. Deaf children should have as much of a right as other children to challenge violations of their rights. NDCS is concerned about the lack of an individual right to petition for deaf children and would urge the UK Government to reverse its position on ratification of the Optional Protocol.

  I hope this submission is helpful. We would be very happy to discuss in more detail any of the points raised in this submission.


i  Parmit Dhanda MP, then Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Education and Skills, March 2007.

ii  NDCS, 2008. Must do better! Barriers to achievement by deaf children, London.

iii  "Respect for inherent dignity, individual autonomy including the freedom to make one's own choices"

iv  "States Parties shall ensure that children with disabilities have the right to express their views freely on all matters affecting them, their views being given due weight in accordance with their age and maturity, on an equal basis with other children, and to be provided with disability and age-appropriate assistance to realize this right"

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